Legislators Discuss Need for More Childcare - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Legislators Discuss Need for More Childcare

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Quality childcare is a big issue for most parents. North Dakota lawmakers have been discussing six bills on the subject, but little has yet to be done. One bill has already failed, and the others have been changed since first introduced.

The cost of childcare has been rising in counties across the state. Parents and daycare providers have brought their concerns to the legislature to try and get some relief.

Sen. Joan Heckaman: "Quality, affordable, and available childcare is so very very important in the first four years of a child's life."

Which is why members of both parties, in both chambers, have been working to get legislation passed to provide grants to centers around the state.

One bill in the House would have given $13 million dollars in grants, but after it was amended those funds were taken out of the bill.

"Right now the bill does still have 1.6 million for technical assistance," explains Rep. Kathy Hawken. "However, I'm not sure who we're going to assist because there are an awful lot of centers going out of business."

The Senate versions, while facing cuts, haven't been as steep. One bill had called for $700,000 to go to the Department of Human Services to help assist specialists and providers with special needs children. Those funds got to $500,000.

"Wether it's a medical need, behavioral need or nutritional need, parents deserve reassurance that there will be a care provider there prepared to accept their child into that setting," Heckaman says.

She says there are currently about 6,000 special needs children in childcare centers around the state. Both Heckaman and Hawken say they are hopeful that the legislation will get some of the funding put back into them by the end of the session.

Another bill would have given $6 million dollars in grants to the head start program. The bill was amended to take the funds out and turn it into a study. The bill passed on the house floor Friday afternoon.

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